All of a sudden, the Dallas Stars are building a little bit of momentum. Last night’s result against the Anaheim Ducks was their third in as many games. No, it was not a victory without flaws. Tyler Seguin is still riding a lengthy goose egg, the power play is long on promise and short on result, and beating a should-be limited Ducks squad proved to be a legitimate challenge. Still, the points count, and there might actually be some cause for optimism among Stars fans.
First and foremost, full credit to the scuffling offense. John Gibson (.927 save percentage after eight games) has been of Vezina quality this season. An extra day of heightened hopes gave the Stars every reason to fear one of their classic 25-plus shot, zero goal trap games. Instead, Denis Gurianov was working on a possible hat trick by the first intermission. While the Stars would fail to add to their tally, they did manage 28 shots and forced several high-quality chances against Gibson before the night was over. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Radek Faksa will all feel particularly aggrieved by the American goaltender after Thursday night.
And while we are on the topic, the Dallas offense is starting to show signs of legitimate balance. Take a quick look at their goals scored over the past three games: Roope Hintz, Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen, Corey Perry, Faksa, Gurianov, and Joe Pavelski. There are forwards, defensemen, first liners, and fourth liners (although after Anaheim, please let Gurianov graduate). Veterans and young bucks (again, maybe more than 10 minutes for Gurianov next time out?), five-on-five, and even a goal on the power play. There’s still work to do, but signs of life are better than what fans were getting at the start of October.
Defensively, things also appear to be coming together. One goal squeaked past the Dallas defense last night, one goal by the Ottawa Senators, and one goal from the Philadelphia Flyers despite significant opposition. Miro Heiskanen hasn’t missed a beat (24:11 time on ice, 50.8 CF%), John Klingberg is showing signs of life (23:50, 50.8 CF%), and the rest of the crew is keeping the beat (Jamie Oleksiak with 13:04, 52.7 CF%, 47.6 oZS%). Between the pipes, Ben Bishop has a pair of wins, and Anton Khudobin has the third. That is kind of the recipe to build on as far as the Dallas Stars are concerned.
Which brings us to the biggest cause for hope. Last night’s game was only Dallas’ third against a Western Conference foe. Their season opener against the St. Louis Blues remains their only tilt within the Central Division. The Dallas Stars will play four or five games against every other squad in the Central. If this latest ray of sunshine is somehow sustainable, there are more than enough available points to undo the damage of a terrible start.
At the close of business Thursday night, Dallas sits fifth in the Division, one point back from Winnipeg in fourth, and only six points behind Colorado for the top spot. Not great, but not scary either. A few more wins could change their entire outlook. They have to win the games, of course. Life is funny that way, but for fans with memories of the pointless capitulation in Buffalo, it’s a brand new day.